'Innovative' strategy to end Japanese nuclear

14 September 2012

Japan has confirmed a goal of ending nuclear power generation in the 2030s. The new strategy is based on respect for the will of the Japanese people, but slashes environmental targets to perhaps as little as a 10% reduction in CO2 by 2030.

Yoshihiko Noda, 14 September 2012 (250x167)
Prime minister Yoshihiko Noda launched the
strategy at a cabinet meeting this morning

Recent surveys indicated a strong will among Japanese people to use as little nuclear energy as possible in the future and to make a new policy 'from scratch' that did not reflect the priorities of the establishment. Around half of people supported the 15% or 0% options for nuclear's share of electricity, compared to the 30% it provided before the Fukushima accident.

The Innovative Energy and Environment Strategy announced today seems to lie somewhere between the 0% and 15% options. It specifies that new nuclear power plants will not be built in the country, while existing reactors will be limited to a 40-year lifespan. This would mean the gradual reduction of nuclear power with today's newest reactors, that started in 2005, operating until 2045 even though the stated goal is to reduce nuclear power to zero 'in the 2030s'. There was no clarification on this - or what would happen to the two reactors currently under construction - illustrating the government's tactic of satisfying public opinion without making serious commitments. Reactors currently operable but shut down would be allowed to restart once they gain permission from the incoming Nuclear Regulatory Authority, due for launch on 19 September.

A green energy policy framework should follow by the end of the year, including a roadmap to achieve the nuclear phase-out.

Fossil generation and renewables, complimented by energy efficiency, are envisaged as gradually replacing nuclear. Concrete steps to facilitate this have yet to be detailed, but in the months between the accident and today it is has been energy austerity and imported fossil fuels that have filled the gap, resulting in a 60 million tonne increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

Accordingly, the new strategy also dramatically revises climate change goals. Under the pre-Fukushima policy, the goal was to achieve a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. Now, the goal is for a reduction of 'about 20%' in the case of low economic growth; and only 'about 10%' in the case of anything higher by 2030.

Environmentalist Mark Lynas told World Nuclear News the Japanese policy was "nothing short of insane." He complained that "politicians around the world - under pressure from populations subjected to decades of anti-nuclear fearmongering by people who call themselves greens - are raising the risks of catastrophic climate change in order to eliminate the safest power source ever invented."

Researched and written
by World Nulcear News